I have been doing my master's thesis for a year now. I was quite productive during the past months, so I already managed to publish one paper on the topic. Now, the productivity seems to have drawbacks too - I have already fulfilled every requirement there is for a thesis, and even more, but I haven't described even half of the work I did during the past year.

So, I am now left wondering should I return the thesis tomorrow for evaluation, or use two or three more months writing (I'm a terribly slow writer). I would probably like to apply for a PhD position, so I guess I should make the decision from that point of view. If I have a very comprehensive master's thesis, does it add any value for application? Having the one paper would already opens all doors in my home country, but I don't know about the others.

  • 4
    How did you advisor answer this question? (You did ask you advisor, didn't you?)
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 17:00
  • Yes. No clear answer. (might be because he's new at the department) Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 18:15
  • 1
    Ask him for a reasonable timeline to completion/deliverables and a plan of action that he would like to see from you. Having a strict, measurable objective usually helps in such cases.
    – Shion
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 19:23
  • 1
    So how did your advisor's senior-faculty mentor answer when you advisor asked this question? (Your advisor does have a mentor, doesn't he?) It's your advisor's job to give you a clear answer.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


Having a paper published on your own work, while doing a Master's degree (i.e. in a relatively short time) sure is a good point of your application to any graduate program. Having a paper submitted for publication is always a plus, but having one already published is a strong plus for you.

Regarding your thesis: the quality of the thesis itself will probably not matter much in admission to a PhD program, unless it is visibly bad, in which case it will sure hurt. Otherwise, chances are noöne will read it through when you apply. Thus, if you are strongly confident that your thesis can be accepted/graded/defended (I don't know what the detailed requirements are for your program) in its current state, don't overdo it.

Don't get me wrong: you don't want to be seen as the guy who did the absolute bare minimum to get away with it. That looks bad, and may leave a stain when people ask for references. Otherwise, if you think your thesis is of good quality, just submit it. The extra work it requires to get it to “perfect” or “awesome” is probably not worth it. The only exceptions I can see are:

  1. if your Master's program has a ranking system, and getting a good rank (or even 1st) can boost your future applications
  2. if the writing will also be useful for new papers, in which case you might as well include it in the thesis
  • Thank you for reply F'x. I do think the thesis is ready in its current form (approx. 70 pages), but I could easily extend it somewhere over 100 pages. So I guess I'll give it for proof-reading at this point and leave out the rest material.
    – user7925
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 20:05

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